The rundown on Facebook

0462A113-0D87-4A72-9370-1304A3937F19.jpgI had the pleasure of appearing on Luke Armour's comeback episode of his podcast, The Rundown. Luke works for me here at FH, but I promise you he asked me to appear and I did not coerce him in any way. No, really I swear I didn't.

Luke's been podcasting for some time and it really does show in the production quality of the episode. If you're interested in listening I think you will learn something new. Check out our conversation about my new Facebook ebook here. He even throws in a little nugget at the very end to reward people who listen all the way through.


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Don't forget the rest of the digital puzzle

iStock_000005066615XSmall.jpgWith all of the buzz around social media it's easy to overlook the rest of the digital marketing puzzle. Yes, it's fun to talk about Twitter and Facebook and the other new bright shiny objects, but they're just one component of a balanced online marketing strategy.

Take a look at the following chart from e-Marketer that shows how US adults prefer to have companies communicate with them. Note that email is still almost twice as requested as web sites.

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That being said, social media has the opportunity to help drive business, create valuable content and serve as a landing point for various customer segments. Content is the foundation of any quality experience online, just ask anyone who's run a website.

Email - Social media (from Twitter to blogs) is centered around constant content updates. It's also a rule that very few people actually participate by commenting or adding content. Most people participate by reading and clicking (which is just as valuable in my opinion). Email is a perfect way, however, to summarize the best, most relevant conversations that are taking place.

Search - Search engines absolutely love social media content. It's categorized, updated frequently and is full of metadata. Results from blogs and other social media outlets are showing up in search result pages alongside corporate websites and official releases. The more relevant, popular, trusted sources will rise to the top...many times they'll be blogs.

Advertising - Sites like Facebook are full of user data that is being leveraged by marketers to create timely, relevant, targeted ads. Facebook made poor decisions early on with their Beacon program, but smart marketers are using the targeting to eliminate waste and only pay for the qualified clicks.

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With social media as one component of digital marketing mix, keep thinking about how it can integrate with other tactics. How can you use the content generated in emails, ads, mobile messaging, search targeting, etc.? How can you extend it offline into physical items for marketing. Look at examples like Moo.com that allow you to create social artifacts that lead people back to your space online.

Social media is not an island,
it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.

Social media isn't the end-all-be-all, but it offers marketers unparalleled opportunity to participate in relevant ways. It also provides a launchpad for other marketing tactics. Social media is not an island, it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.


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The influence of digital

cameraphone.jpgAs a rule, I only talk about my work and my company when I know it will add value to what you do. That's certainly the case today as Fleishman-Hillard (my company) and Harris Interactive release our Digital Influence Index Study. This study was conducted in Europe (using the UK, France and Germany as the initial round of countries), but you can see trends emerge that I think are global in nature.

(You can download the key findings, the whitepaper and the FAQ for the study.)

The study looks to really dig in to the role that the internet plays in the lives of consumers. It answers the following questions:

  • Influence: What is the influence of the internet compared to other media?
  • Behavior: What online behaviors are consumers adopting?
  • Impact on decisions: What is the impact of the internet on specific consumer decisions?
  • Attitudes: What are consumer attitudes towards the internet?
  • Geography: What are the differences by country?

The actual Digital Influence Index number shown below in the pie charts is compiled like this:

Picture 18.png

Picture 17.pngThe chart to the right compares the influence of different forms of media on decision making. As you can see the internet is more influential in each country than any other type of media. It's nearly twice as influential as TV and eight times more influential than traditional print media. Interestingly, consumers spend a marginal amount more time on TV than the Internet, but it's not effecting their decisions proportionally.

The study found that consumer behavior falls into one of five categories. They are research, commerce, communication, mobility and publishing. While you can read more detail in the full report, some highlights are:


  • 80% of online consumers use the net to comparison shop
  • 3 out of 4 use the net to manage bank accounts
  • 30% post a comment to an online newsgroup or website during a typical week

Here is how these behaviors relate adoption levels and influence

Picture 19.png

Though the study found the internet influential, it showed that there are still trust issues that have to be overcome for it to continue to grow. Trust of information from other users, trust of government information and information provided by companies were all relatively low. Trust in commerce was a little better and trust of the security of communications channels was pretty high as well.

Key Findings:


  • Across all three countries addressed by the study, the Internet has roughly double the influence of the second strongest medium — television — and roughly eight times the influence of traditional print media. This indicates a need and an opportunity for companies to reprioritise their communications to address the media shift in consumer influence.
  • Consumers use the Internet in different ways to make different decisions. For example, consumers are more likely to seek opinions of others through social media and product-rating sites when it comes to making decisions that involve choices that have a great deal of personal impact (e.g., healthcare options or major electronics purchases), but use company-controlled sources when making transactional decisions on commoditised items like utilities or airline tickets.
  • While consumers see the clear benefits of the Internet on their lives, they continue to have concerns about Internet safety and the trustworthiness of some of the information they find online. In the UK, for example, 66 percent of online consumers state that the Internet helps them make better decisions, but just 28 percent trust the information on the Internet provided by companies.

I think this quote from Dave Senay (our CEO) addresses the key point from my perspective:

"The research shows that the Internet stands out as the most important medium in the lives of European consumers today, but there's a mismatch between the impact of the digital channel across a wide range of consumer behaviours and decisions and the proportion of resources organisations generally are allocating to it relative to other media.

Insights provided by this study will help communicators be more strategic in their marketing mix. At the same time, we need to be mindful about the concerns expressed about safety and trust, which underscores the need for digital engagement with consumers based on open and honest representation."

So what should companies and marketers do with this knowledge?


  • Given the influence of the Internet, audit your current marketing spend and see how it aligns with reality and the influence of the medium
  • Make sure information that is provided is done so in a transparent, honest manner with full representation
  • SEM/SEO are crucial as search drives the way people find information
  • Join the conversation online, support the community and engage in a transparent manner
  • Keep an eye on mobile trends and poll consumers to gauge demand for such an offering

So, what do you think about the information? This is based in Europe, but do you see correlations with the US? You can download the entire white paper here, which includes all of the information above with more charts and graphs.


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On widgets and micro interactions

Picture 6.pngNext Monday I will be on a panel discussion at first Widget Web Expo to be held in the US. The panel is full of brilliant thinkers including David Armano (who is moderating), David Malouf (an Interaction Designer for Motorola), InternetGeekGirl herself Steph Agresta, Steve Rubel (SVP at Edelman Digital) and Ian Schafer (CEO of Deep Focus). The panel is centered around a passion of mine, micro interactions.

0FA51418-95CB-453E-9A4B-A1DCF7439D6E.jpg  6AC8254A-41EA-4E0E-A4C9-E011A0477ECF.jpg  1B32941F-71C8-4FF4-B43A-E5B532BC9666.jpg  3C4DEB21-F487-48A6-A2EE-4A140119BDD3.jpg  02E53C6C-E2D4-4535-B49B-000DA7C07805.jpg

Micro interactions with brands are very powerful tools for marketers to engage with users where they live online. What I mean is that widgets and other micromedia are location agnostic. You can take an experience like a widget (or a service like Twitter) and put it on your phone, blog, website, desktop, etc. You move them as you like and engage with them in the way you want.

Widgets are portable, brand gateways

Widgets can live on websites and blogs and look like containers for third party information like these:

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Services like iGoogle and MyYahoo are made entirely of widgets. You select what you want on the page, move them around and remove them when they stop adding value.

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If you run OSX or Vista you can have widgets on your desktop that do any number of tasks.

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Most importantly, these widgets enable you as a marketer to allow your customer to have a window into your brand. Are you taking advantage of that? Widgets can stream live video, include maps, offer exclusives and really add value.

So what is a widget to you? Do you have a model that is stuck in your mind or do you think broadly about widgets? Considering that you can have an entire website or transact commerce inside a widget there is no real limit to what you can do.


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Owning your digital identity

iStock_000005643508XSmall.jpgDo you own your corporate domain name? It sounds kind of silly in 2008 doesn't it?

Let's go a level deeper. Do you own your personal .com name (i.e. www.mattdickman.com)?

That may be a bit more of a stretch for some of you, but it's crucial from a personal branding perspective. Just ask Shel Israel who did not have www.shelisrael.com purchased and someone else put up a site devoted to poking fun at him.

Other heavyweights like Robert Scoble (www.robertscoble.com) don't own their domain names either. Re-acquiring a domain name from a cybersquatter has some legal precedent, but it can rack of legal fees or large one-time purchase amounts.

Do you own your Twitter, YouTube and Flickr usernames?

However, let me ask you this. Do you own your personal/corporate Twitter username? How about your YouTube username? How about your Flickr username? If you don't, it's probably a good idea that you do (they're mostly free anyway). I lost out personally on my YouTube name because I used my nickname instead. You may not acquire them all, but you can sure try. These usernames do come up with search result pages adding to the importance of owning your identity.

The risk to your reputation that you run when somebody does register your username is potentially huge. There is no legislation (which I am aware of) that addresses these micro level identity-squatters. It could get to a point where people/companies have to pay for their usernames ala the late 1990's domain name deals.

Once you have acquired the usernames you will need to decide how, if at all, you use the account. While I don't like the fact that accounts may sit empty in the short-term, it is advisable that you secure your ID as soon as possible.

What are you waiting for? Go get your identity!

[Update: It looks like Shel Holtz and I are on the same page today. Check out his post on the same topic with FriendFeed.]


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The scalability of language and conversations

iStock_000005475259XSmall.jpgThere is a game that every American kid plays in school at one point in time called telephone (also known as Chinese whispers). The idea is that all of the kids line up in a single-file line and then the person on one end of the line whispers a sentence to the person next to them like "Steve Jobs is the CEO of Apple, pass it on". What always happens though, is as the message is passed along it evolves and changes until the last person has something like "Apples are oh so good for you". (The game only works until the age when kids know what the experiment is and then they start intentionally changing it.)

Now, imagine you were playing the same game in a room where nobody spoke the same language. One of the biggest challenges for most marketers, journalists, advertisers and PR practitioners who leverage the Web to operate in the global economy is the scalability of language. This is something that I think about often as I blog, record videos and audio and I work day-to-day on global campaigns for major brands.

Machine translation is nearly useless. What I mean by machine translation is the use of automatic translation scripts (like Google Translate or Systran). This is almost 100% useless unless you only need a vague idea of what is being talked about. There is no substitute for localized translation by a native speaker.

The normal tactic for most marketers, when dealing with language, is to create multiple versions of content all translated into the local dialect under a global umbrella. This works well for written content (outside of having multiple copies of content), but you end up with divergent conversations even though the ideas overlap and each would benefit from the other's experience.

The limitations of video
One area that I feel the effects of more often than not is the limitation of video. When I create a video in English, I am almost entirely locked in to only reach English speakers. It doesn't do much good to Spanish speakers or German speakers, because so much of the value is in the spoken word.

At the same time, video is a superior tool to bridge distance and make people feel like they are together. It's also great for education purposes. So, how can we bridge the scalability of language as marketers, content creators and human beings?

The challenge of conversations
Another big challenge happens when organic customer conversations cross languages. Right now there is no real good way to combine conversations from language silos. Imagine the perspective we could have if people from around the world could have cross-language conversations. That would certainly be powerful.

Most social networks are separated as well where each language is kept separate from each other. Bi-lingual users have a very hard time crossing back and forth. The experience is certainly not fluid. Word of mouth suffers the same limitations.

Over the next couple of days I am going to feature a few of the ways that language is slowly and methodically starting to scale with content.

In the meantime, how do you deal with language? Do you ignore it for now or is it something that is always at the back of your mind? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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Video from Startup Camp

Thanks to the multi-talented Neil Vineberg and his stealth video abilities (it's a long story) here is a set of videos from our panel discussion this past Sunday at Moscone South. Kudos again to my fellow panelists CK, Jyri Engestrom and Adam Metz.

Brand

Messaging and Positioning

Social Media

[Feed readers click through to the post for the video.]


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Redefining reach; the new marketing equation

iStock_000003345269XSmall.jpgWhile I was at StartupCamp this past Sunday here in San Francisco a few of the future founders came up to me asking my advice on how they should approach PR/advertising.

Many of their questions (as small pre-startups) echo the same quandary that major marketers are facing. What is the right way to get the message out in a measurable, cost effective manner. In larger companies it really seems that they value the medium (seeing a spot run in primetime, an article in a major newspaper) more than the benefits that come out of them.

One of the ways that I tried to help guide them and explain why social media is so powerful is the following scenario. Look at these two equations and let me know which one has the most benefit to you:

1. Message 1,000,000 to possibly reach 100

2. Personally reach 100 who influence 1,000 who influence 10,000 who influence 1,000,000

They are two very disparate scenarios, but that is social media in a nutshell. You're not wasting millions of untraceable impressions on TV, radio and print buys. You're forming real relationships with people that spread their version of your message along the chain.

It seems pretty clear right? But this is a huge mental leap for most marketing organizations. The new model is about building relationships that grow and spread to new relationships. Here is a graphical representation of this shift. Advertising will have diminishing returns over time as social connections will deliver more and more value.

value paradox.png

There is a huge value paradigm shift that has to happen here. The traditional scenario is very front weighted with value, but it is constantly in a state of decline as time goes on. You pay for the creation of the ad and the media buy and then sit back and pray.

With the social media option, you invest up front, but your spending has to scale as your message spreads to new audiences over time. The value you get takes longer to build and catch up with the advertising model, but it will eventually exceed it. That's a hard thing to budget, but it's important to note.

How do you help people make this jump? It's possible, but it takes time and dedication. What are your thoughts on the equations?



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Blogging from Sun's Startup Camp

sun_startup_camp.jpgI'll be speaking on a panel at Sun Microsystems' Startup Camp 5 at Moscone South today. They're expecting 500-600 attendees to this free event. I'll be updating this post throughout the day, so check back throughout the day.

We follow up Sun CEO, and blogger, Jonathan Schwartz. The panel is titled "Notes From Mission Control: Rules For A Successful Media Launch" and my fellow panelists are S. Neil Vineberg, Jyri Engestrom (co-founder of Jaiku), Christina (CK) Kerley and Adam Metz (theMIX). It's going to be a great time. Stay tuned.

There is a great vibe here and sense of community.

Keynote: Jonathan Schwartz (Sun's CEO):
I was really impressed with how casual Jonathan was and how passionately he talked about Sun's involvement in the startup community. After his initial remarks he was joined on stage by Om Malik of GigaOm. Om pressed Jonathan on a number of issues, none more inappropriate than his question about how Schwartz felt about having to lay off 2,500 people recently. Schwartz handled himself very well, spoke directly to the question and came across as somebody who really cares about his people.

My Panel:
I won't say a whole lot about the panel. Mashable had a really good recap thanks to Kristen Nicole. I was pretty mad that I missed Kristen and Pete after the panel as I had to duck below the event for an interview. I'll catch them on my next swing through the Bay area.

The Unconference:
This was my first true unconference and I liked what I saw. If you aren't familiar with it either, a portion of the event is planned on the spot by the attendees. People post sessions they want to host and then people show up. I sat in on a great discussion on Twitter and information overload (that's a subject for a future post).

Large_head_shot_yobie_1 I spent a little time with serial entrepreneur and overall great guy Yobie Benjamin. He's working on a world-changing startup right now and I was really amazed by his passion and energy around it. If you're a super developer and looking for a challenge you should reach out to him ASAP.

I was also able to spend a lot of quality time with CK and Neil Vineberg who, I must say, are two of the most kind, hard working, organized and brilliant people I know. Neil invited me to this event and took the time to show me some of the magnificent sights of SF. CK, as you probably know, is such a giving, helping jewel of a person. She made sure Neil showed me the right things and helped me to refine the points I made on the panel. It was a great experience because of them.

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Do you trust trust research?

iStock_000004622271XSmall.jpgI have seen posts and Twitter messages about the newly release trust research that Forrester's Josh Bernoff posted about earlier today. I have a great deal of respect for Josh, I just have some questions. In the hopes of getting answers to some of my questions about the survey I am going to post them here and ping the people at Forrester to engage and answer some of the common ones that have come up.

Here is the chart in question:

forrester_trust.jpg

Questions


  • What are the demographics of the survey respondents? Marketers are going to take this research at face value without knowing if this research might scale from generation to generation.
  • Does the category "known expert" include or exclude bloggers? For example, if you're 18 and looking for product reviews of technology chances are good that Engadget and Gizmodo are very high on the list.
  • With the 30% trust of bloggers, is that for unknown bloggers who may come up in a random search or it is generalized to all bloggers? Does that differ from an unknown opinion site vs. a known opinion site?
  • As the tail quickly falls from short to long for the majority of product categories, mass media coverage drops out of the picture. Does this take into account long tail, niche categories or are you talking about things like refrigerators and vacuums vs. left handed Cuban cigars or organic dog biscuits?
  • Finally, I found this information through Twitter and blogs. Do I need to wait until somebody I knows calls me or I see it on TV to trust it?

Feel free to add your own questions to this list. What is your take on the research? Does this jive with your feelings of trust? Do you trust it?


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Do you communicate at the speed of Google? Why you must

google_logo_blur.jpgCommunication is happening at a faster pace than ever before, but many companies are not adapting their communication strategies/processes to keep up.

Search engines are indexing content within minutes, micromedia outlets like Twitter are delivering messages real time and blogging allows mass communication to happen with very few barriers. Rumors and leaks will never go away, but companies now have the tools to be the first to provide key, relevant information.

The 15 minute Google rule.

Almost without exception within 15 minutes of posting to this blog I receive a Google alert email that there was a new post matching one of my keywords. (Seriously, if you haven't done this yet, do yourself a favor and click here to set them up.) I have "Matt Dickman", "Techno//Marketer", "technomarketer" and "Fleishman-Hillard" alerts set up as well as alerts for competitors and clients. I often get Google alerts for items before they show up in my RSS reader or are floated to me in email.

[Update: I posted this entry at 9:43pm and I received my Google alert email that it was indexed at 10:02pm. See screenshot below.]

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This is invaluable information to have and it illustrates the point that I am trying to make. Companies who have typically thought that they could control the news and release it when and to whom they saw fit are at the end of the line.

Mergers and acquisitions, executive departures, layoffs and regulatory approvals are just a few of the topics that employees, shareholders and the general public are hearing about in near real time. It takes just one blog post, a Twitter message (the example that comes to mind was the Yahoo layoffs that were broadcast on Twitter as they happened) or an email that sneaks past the firewall and the story is broken. Google's search spiders are constantly scouring servers looking for new information and once found (or told) they broadcast it to the world.

Danger Will Robinson
There is danger for companies in communicating in real time. Facts still need to be vetted and rumors that are unfounded can hurt a company's reputation. However, the tools are in place to allow faster, transparent communication to all of the stakeholders so that they don't find out from a Google Alert. Companies should be using these tools to become more connected with their audiences and be the first voice on any issue that impacts their people or their business.

How might this play out?
Here are a couple of ways that I can see companies adopting new technologies to communicate more quickly and more accurately in the future (and some are already doing this today):


  • Sales force empowered by micromedia. Go beyond names like Twitter and Jaiku to the core technology behind those services. Imagine a company that has a private version of Twitter to communicate in real time with their sales force. Price changes roll out in seconds, questions are answered quickly and customer service follow up is prompt.
  • Internal communications blog. Some companies are using internal-only blogs, but more will definitely start. This is a great way to create a two-way dialog and communicate information and changes quickly and transparently. Once information is in the open, everybody feels like they're on the same page.
  • Targeted blogs. Companies will start creating blogs that are focused on key audiences (investors, customers, employees) and communicate to each in a more open and rapid manner.
  • Email is still key. Many executives and employees will be more easily reached via emails that fit into their existing workflow. Companies will need to adapt their processes to use this as a key delivery vehicle for internal communication.

Need to adapt the communications process
How many times have you read a press release or seen a story that you heard about weeks ago? I would venture that happens a lot and a big reason is the outmoded model most companies use to create, refine and release information. Let's look at two models, first the old model and second the new model.

Do you want to communicate information to your audience or do you want Google to do it?

The old model: In the old model (which is still the predominant model) news is written in the form of a release. It goes from agency to client with some back and forth for refinement. Then it gets refined to a final version. This version goes through legal review and some type of corporate communications review. If there are changes, it goes back and loops through the process again. The final version gets scheduled for release, the wire service queues it up and on the agreed upon date/time it drops.

The new model: In the new model, communications are an open book. Issues are addressed in real time, communicated quickly with thoroughly written copy, supported with video/audio and open to feedback/discussion. The good and bad are handled in the same way. Everyone stays on the same page and nobody feels like they're the last to know or that they've been blindsided.

This won't work for highly regulated companies, but it could work for a majority of the rest. Companies have to get over the command and control mentality to communications. Don't get me wrong, there is still strategy to messaging and communications need to be thought out, but it needs to happen more rapidly, more flexibly and less forcibly.

What do you think? Can this work? Have you seen examples of companies using new technology to communicate more quickly with the right messages? Let me know what you think.


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The most powerful branding tool. Ever.

dig.jpgIf I were to give you a tip on the most powerful tool any company has at their disposal to positively impact their brand, would you act on it? When companies talk about branding, they often turn to the standard creative elements. They conduct focus groups and prepare branding briefs before the first pixel is pushed into place on the logo. If you're really serious you have a whole identity package. But that's not branding, that's just a logo right? From there they create the marketing campaign. Print ads are created to build emotional connections with people, TV spots reinforce the company image and convey the same emotions. Hundreds of hours are spent planning the website, the information architecture, the experience design, the content. When it's all said and done you have one damn fine looking marketing campaign.

Most companies know that part (very few do it right). The part they don't get is the tool that I am talking about. Customer service. Customer service is so powerful that it can make up for bad products, downtime and inconvenience. Conversely, poor customer service can kill even the most well thought out, killer product or service.

A brand is the sum of the interactions with an entity over time. Still, the last interaction with a product or service usually sticks with us. How many times have you felt your opinion of a company turn sour when somebody in the store isn't helpful? How many times have you sat on hold waiting in line only to not really get the answer you're looking for?

The last interaction is the only one that matters.

So why is customer service so often overlooked as a branding tool? It's hard to get right. Here are some of the challenges:

  • It takes time. Lots of time. Customer service takes training, dedication and people who are aligned with the company's goals. Time is money after all and most companies look at the short term outlay instead of the long term benefit of building customer loyalty and creating a great total brand experience.
  • High turnover. Typically customer service is made up of entry level folks packed into small offices strapped to a phone 8 hours a day. Why not really turn to results-based incentives here? Why not dress up their work area so they have a great attitude and convey to your customers?
  • Everyone is in customer service. This means the CEO, the VPs, the account people, the programmers, the designers, the administrative staff, everyone. This is a key shift in thinking that needs to take place. One off day for one person will have an impact on your brand image. The last interaction is the only one that matters. You may not get another chance.
  • Not just for consumer packages goods. Customer service happens in every industry whether you label it customer service or not. Law firms, ad agencies, PR firms and accountants all are in customer service. The problem is that it's not ingrained in their corporate philosophy, they think it beneath them. That's the
  • Too easy to rely on technology. No message board or crowd sourced solution can replace human interaction. Technology is a great way to give people access to basic, commonly asked questions. However, when a person's questions are not answered by those solutions they can be left frustrated. Have you ever tried to reach Flickr, Technorati or Feedburner to get a prompt answer to a question? They make it 100% impossible to talk to a human. Don't be like those guys.

I think David Armano summed it up well in his reply when I posted this on Twitter a couple of days ago.

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How do you integrate this common sense into what you do? How can you improve your support system? What will you do NOW to take action to create a customer service culture?

What do you do to make sure every personal interaction is the best it can be?


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Power 150 roundtable

P28bloggertable041408 The week before last, in between attending Virtual Worlds and the start of Blogger Social, I had the great opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion at the Advertising Age HQ. AdAge Editor Jonah Bloom invited 12 bloggers from the Power 150 list to have a conversation about blogging, social media, new marketing and the future of print and digital publications.

Jonah has received a lot of flack in the past from bloggers (myself included) for not fully engaging more marketing bloggers to add insights and ideas for stories in the publication. Although AdAge has been making moves to add more blogger input, it's been a bit slow. That seems to have changed for the better. AdAge is looking to (and really should make a big push) add more content from this blogger community and it's a relatively untapped market right now. Some bloggers have connections to print pubs, but for the most part our thinking is confined to those who seek us out. Publications like AdAge reach a much broader market and the thinking that this community provides (along with the comments from you the reader) are invaluable, poignant, timely and unique.

Advertising Age roundtableOne of the key discussions centered around the challenges that marketers are facing and what content they may be looking for. It was great to see and hear such a great mixture of thoughts and experiences from around the table. That, to me, is the power of engaging bloggers as content creators. Ad Age has the opportunity to leverage a veritable army of authors with highly targeted experience to write about nearly any topic from nearly any opinion. You need a digital guy who's working in design with luxury goods manufacturers? David Armano is your man. Looking for a guy with lots of mid-market, hands on experience and a background working for a rock band and Starbucks? Just call Lewis Green. There are thousands of people with very unique voices who are talented storytellers. I am personally looking forward to seeing what else comes from this.

Other bloggers in attendance included Ann Handley, Mark Goren, Gavin Heaton, Lewis Green, Daryl Ohrt, Anna Farmery, Geoff Livingston, Sean Howard, David Armano, Rohit Bhargava, Paul McEnany and Todd Andrlik. You can read the AdAge article here.

*Top photo credit: Andrew Walker (Advertising Age)

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Trends in youth and mobile marketing

buzz_small2.jpgI promised early on with this blog not to talk very much about my work, but I do make exceptions when I think it will add value for you. Within Fleishman-Hillard there is a group of very talented folks in our Next Great Thing (NGT) practice who focus on youth and mobile marketing. It's amazing to have this group as a resource as both of these topics are, and will continue to be, crucial for PR and marketing practitioners to understand in the coming years.

Today, the NGT group released their spring 2008 youth trend report. The group works with young tastemakers around the globe to stay ahead of the curve. Some of the topics in the report include open source thinking, reflex in interactions, individualism, evolution of the language, the importance of RSS, in-game advertising and engagement marketing.

Click here to download the report in PDF format.


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Developing personas for marketing strategy

people2.jpgPersonas are an extremely valuable tool for marketers in any field. If you're not familiar with the term, personas are representations of your target audience based on research and interviews. From PR to digital to advertising, any marketing team or agency can benefit from developing client- and/or brand-specific personas.

As an example, let's say one of your target audience types is a 18-21 year old male who likes emo music, skateboarding and high-end electronics. You would come up with a name for this person along the lines of "Nate" and you would find an image of him to use in your planning. When you start making decisions about marketing strategies, you would check back to "Nate" and ask if it would reach him. What would reach him more effectively? What message does he need to hear. That is a basic model of persona development. Here is some more information to guide you through the process.

Why personas are important:

  • Personas put a face on the customer. Some persona programs give people names so you can refer to them and see them in a physical representation. The agency Organic creates persona rooms where their people live so the project team can become fully immersed.
  • Personas remove the tendency to think of yourself as the customer. You have to step back and this gives you the structure to do so.
  • Act as a guide throughout the process of developing marketing communications programs, cross mediums (print, digital, outdoor, TV, etc.).
  • Keeps designers, copywriters, programmers on track and avoids waste by remaining focused on the customer.

How people screw them up:

  • Personas take time and research to get right.
  • This includes some time in the field and meeting face-to-face with the customer.
  • People think they know their customer without looking at data.
  • Personas are often used up front in the marketing strategy process and don't carry through the process.

How you can avoid screwing them up:

  • Get data. Collect it from the web and third party sources. Analyze web traffic. Do in-person interviews and ethnography. Get a big picture view and then analyze it objectively.
  • Talk to your customers. Videotape them. Record the audio. Take notes. Come back with a real feeling for who you are trying to reach.
  • Compare what you saw to the data and look for the insights.
  • Evolve the personas over time. Adapt them as your product lines change or the economy changes. These should be living, breathing entities.

A great sample model.
I found this great model on Idris Mootee's site in a post where he compared the problems that MBAs and MFAs have in the workplace. It's a great start to being able to wrap your head around these ideas.

persona_10 steps.jpg1. Finding the users
Questions asked: Who are the users? How many are there? What do they do with the system/brand?
Methods used: Quantitative data analysis.
Documents produced: Reports.

2. Building a hypothesis
Questions asked: What are the differences between the users?
Methods used: Looking at the material. Labeling the groups of people.
Documents produced: Draft a description of the target groups.

3. Verifications
Questions asked: Data for personas (likes/dislikes, inner needs, values). Data for situations (area of work, work conditions). Data for scenarios (work strategies and goals, information strategies and goals).
Methods used: Quantitative data collection.
Documents produced: Reports.

4. Finding patterns
Questions asked: Does the initial labeling hold? Are there more groups to consider? Are all equally important?
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

5. Constructing personas
Questions asked: Body (name, age picture). Psyche (extrovert/introvert). Background (occupation). Emotions and attitude towards technology, the company (sender) or the information that they need. Personal traits.
Methods used: Categorization.
Documents produced: Descriptions of categories.

6. Defining situations
Questions asked: What is the need of this persona?
Methods used: Looking for situations and needs in the data.
Documents produced: Categorization of needs and situations.

7. Validation and buy-in
Questions asked: Do you know someone like this?
Methods used: People who know (of) the personas read and comment on the persona descriptions

8. Dissemination of knowledge
Questions asked: How can we share the personas with the organization?
Methods used: Fosters meetings, emails, campaigns of every sort, events.

9. Creating scenarios
Questions asked: In a given situation, with a given goal, what happens when the persona uses the technology/engages with the brand?
Methods used: The narrative scenario - using personas descriptions and situations to form scenarios.
Documents produced: Scenarios, use cases, requirement specifications.

10. On-going development
Questions asked: Does the new information alter the personas?
Methods used: Usability tests, new data
Documents produced: A person responsible for the persona input from everybody who meet the users.

*Diagram developed by Lene Nielsen of Snitker & Co.

More quality persona resources:

So what else do you do when planning personas? How do you develop them? How do you adapt them? What's the balance between qualitative and quantitative feedback?

 

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Packaging the election online with PRSA

Inlogo I am sitting on a panel discussion today at Kent State University about the impact of digital marketing on the current election and what the future may hold. I'll update this post through the day and will recap the event here later. I am hoping to shoot some video to go along with it.

If you have any last minute thoughts on the topic and you want me to express it to the audience, leave me a comment. I'll talk to you soon.

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Five keys to successful blogger outreach

iStock_000004507849XSmall.jpgMy post from last Friday entitled "Your last contact cannot be your first contact" generated some really great commentary. The idealistic, best-case viewpoint I took with blogger outreach caused most of the concern so I want to use this post to touch on five keys to successful blogger outreach in the real world. I highly encourage you to add your opinions in the comment section so we can all learn and grow.

The following five steps should give you a leg up on your next outreach endeavor:


  1. Use a tiered targeting approach: Let's face it. Resource and time are finite things and not all blogs are created equal. At the outset of an outreach program, companies need to identify tiers of bloggers they would like to reach. The tiers should be ranked by influence and reach (these are not the same thing) within the niche(s) you're focusing on . Tier 1 bloggers should get the most attention, tier 2 should get a bit less and so on. This will ensure that time is being allocated to achieve the best impact.

  2. Build relationships over time: As you put bloggers into your tiers, you need to start developing relationships with them (this is where my last post comes into play). I'm talking about forming real, honest relationships. It's easy to spot people who are trying to manipulate you. Read the blogger's content, delve into what their interest are, see who they read and engage with them on their turf (comments, emails, etc.). Ask what you can do for them before you need anything from them. Try to add value to the community they've created. I know that's the fastest way to my heart.

  3. Create relevant messages: This is, as David Berkowitz pointed out in the comments, a crucial step. You can make up for not having a previous relationship with somebody by delivering a spot-on message that is relevant to their interests. The message needs to be to the point and tailored to the blog as much as possible. You can break through the clutter just by writing clearly and focusing on the value and relevance to the blog's community. (Don't fake this either, it's crystal clear to a blogger what is relevant and what misses the mark.)

  4. You only have one shot: This is another big point to make that I think newbies miss all the time. When you contact a blogger, you need to make sure that you have the right person with the right message at the right time because you only have one chance. You should never "follow up" with a blogger unless they ask you to. You have to assume they've seen your message and either ignored it or are holding it for later. Let them make the next move. Following up can be seen as annoying and pushy in this situation. It's important to note that the better your relationship with the blogger, the more flexible this rule is.

  5. Be prepared for follow up: I am often amazed, when I do follow up on a PR pitch, at how unprepared the rep on the other end is. Normally I get a "it's all in the release" or "there isn't anything else available". You should be able to readily follow up with more information including pre-packaged social media content including quotes, videos, photos and logos that are blog-ready (often in a social media news release). Remember that most bloggers are pressed for time and the easier you make it for them to write about you, the more response you'll get. I've passed on relevant stories that require me to do too much leg work.

What would you add to this list? What is your pre-launch checklist for outreach to bloggers? Is it different from traditional media or the same? Are the two converging for you? Drop me a comment!

BONUS - Take a look at Valeria's recent post and her top four good, and bad, pitches. She echos a lot of what I mention here and adds some great insights (as usual).


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Your last contact cannot be your first contact

I (like most bloggers) am on the receiving end of at least 3-5 PR pitches a day. Some of them are really good and on target, but the majority are really tired attempts. Now that I work on the other side of the aisle, so to speak, I want to give a little friendly advice to PR folks doing outreach.

Your last contact cannot be your first contact.

crisis.jpgTo make it crystal clear, if I am reading an email from you right now, I need to have heard from you before. I need to have had an intro email or have seen your name on a comment. Maybe you follow me on Twitter (and I follow you back) or you've added me as a friend on Facebook.

Those people who do this right break through the clutter and avoid my dreaded 'bad pitch' folder in Gmail. (I save these emails to show people what not to do.)

WAY too often I get a pre-formatted, "personal" email (I won't even mention the numerous emails that contain nothing but a press release). You know what I am talking about. It usually starts looking something a bit like this:

Hey [blogger name here],

I really love your blog [blog name here]. I think the perspective and insight you have on [industry name here] is amazing. Your last post on [post subject here] was really good.

[Insert press release here]

Thanks!

While this type of outreach does occasionally work, I can immediately tell what's going on. The ones who've taken the time to reach out and connect with me get through. It's more like P2P outreach in that the relationship is two-way and symbiotic. I often follow up with people who do outreach to get more info or see if they have something new for me.

Blogger "pitching" is not going anywhere. Bloggers are gaining influence and share of voice in media. The key for PR efforts is to choose bloggers that truly fit your product/service niche and build those relationships over time.

Once you have a blogger's attention it's important to offer them easy ways to consume the assets. Logos, video and copy should be online, be embeddable and easy to access (this is the premise of the social media news release). This limits waste and maximizes everyone's time.

Personally, I don't think that the wall exists between PR and bloggers the way it does between PR and journalists. We're all in social media and on the same playing field.

What lessons would you add to this for people in PR who do this type of outreach?


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Twitter, the ultimate customer service tool

iStock_000003492530XSmall.jpgTuesday I wrote about why I think some marketers aren't jumping in to social media faster. In part, I think the feedback is too honest, some marketers don't want to listen and the last thing they want to do is create two-way conversations. Overall though, customer service is one of the best uses of social media and can have a major impact on corporate brand and reputation.

Twitter has been around (as far as we're concerned) for about a year. It's often misunderstood and frequently maligned by journalists and traditional marketers. Part of the issue is, in my opinion, the name of the thing. Twitter? Tweets? Twitterers? I feel dumb for saying these things and I always get the same reaction from people who I am guiding through the landscape.

However, to see the real value of Twitter you have to look past the name to the underlying potential. The underlying technology and architecture is the future of communication. It's a seamless publishing tool that you can use from web, mobile web, mobile app, desktop app, IM, widget, etc. and consume the content using the same methods. (You can check out my full presentation on Micromedia here.)

Here is a visual representation of Twitter's publishing and consumption model. The key is choice and flexibility on both sides.

Picture 24.png

Customer Service

Twitter is the ultimate customer service tool. It's live, instantaneous, community driven, open, two-way and multi-way, unfiltered and predictive. This is, however, only for the most advanced, customer-forward companies to attempt to use. You definitely need a black belt in customer service ninja techniques to do this well.

twitter_logo.pngThe first step is a piece of cake. Go to www.twitter.com and register an account. Point a designer at the page and have them outfit it with a branded background and custom style sheet so it looks like your brand. The account can be protected while you are doing the legwork to set it up and train employees.

Now comes the hard part. Twitter is live and 24x7. Staffing needs to be done accordingly and it's not something that can be started and stopped. Would you abandon a call center or an 800 number? Absolutely not and Twitter is the same thing.

So how does it work?

Once you have the account ready and have the staffing in place you can start promoting it. Be sure to give an overview of how to use it, make signup easy, create a video that walks people through the system. Most people will just use the web version. You can use Twitter's API to basically re-skin the system on your site so people don't know they're using Twitter. Create shortcuts for them to make interacting easier (like adding the @ sign for them when communicating directly.

Once the messages come in, you have to be monitoring. If nobody is available, set up a responder that kicks them back a message and tells them when you will respond. The key is to be fast in response, be honest in what you tell them and allow the entire community to see the conversation. Get Satisfaction is doing this with crowdsourced service, but isn't using Twitter.

Seems pretty easy right? It's not, but the power of listening, responding to issues in real time, letting your customers see this and get a feel for the level of care that you're providing is priceless. The reps that handle this communication need to be specifically trained on the medium and the "rules".

I'm going to break out each of these steps in posts next week and show how the system could integrate into an existing customer service plan.

What do you think? Is this doable? What companies could pull this off and thrive? Some are doing it one-way (service alerts, etc.), but nobody is doing live, open customer service like this.

[Update: Make sure you read Joshua March's great counterpoint post. Weigh in on this from your point of view.]


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Who are you looking for? Criminals or evangelists?

Friendorfoe_2 Easily the most value that I receive from writing this blog is the interaction with you in the comments. Yesterday's challenge to marketers to wake up and start looking for ways to leverage new media (instead of shutting it down) was no exception. Great comments like those always lead me to new ideas and questions, so much so that I have a hard time sleeping.

One comment yesterday sparked me to think about a fundamental shift in thinking that needs to take place for companies to be able to fully engage in their community.

When you look at your brand's social media universe, are you looking for criminals or evangelists?

It seems like too many companies are looking for malicious intent right from the start. They treat loyal, fans and content creators like they're criminals when they should be engaging those people in alliances and helping them to add value to the larger community.

But, how can you tell friend from foe? This can, admittedly, be a little complex at first glance. I think the easiest way to tell friend from foe is to engage them in a conversation. Shoot them an email, be positive and see what they have to say. Online it's easy to reach out to the person taking the time to create on your behalf. Look at their intentions (which should be pretty clear) and come up with a plan to engage them whether the intent is positive or negative.

I do understand that there are legal protections that have to be maintained through the marketing process. Shel Holtz had a fantastic response to my post on his blog where he talks about blaming the law and not the lawyers and he's right. However, progressive companies that are willing to lay a little more on the line can really capitalize. Smaller companies could have a huge advantage over their larger, more bureaucratic, litigious counterparts.

What additional steps would you take to find more about somebody's intentions? What steps have you taken to engage evangelists when you spot them in the wild? These are passionate people who can be a powerful force in grassroots marketing.

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Front line empowerment in new media

iStock_000005029776XSmall.jpgPart of the way through last year, I published a video that provided you, my readers, an overview of a new website. I was fair and pointed out both the positive and negative aspects of the site. Less than a day later I was contacted by one of the company's front line, social media employees.

At the time, I was very impressed with the response time and the professionalism which that individual brought to the exchange. He was complimentary, explained the company's position and offered to provide me more information if I needed it. I thanked him and asked if he would like to be on an episode of my podcast to explain what the company had done to date and what was in store for the future. Keep in mind this entire conversation happened within 24 hours of my post.

Sadly, this is where a great experience, and potential relationship, turned bad. The individual I had dealt with was required to "run it up the flagpole" and ask the company's PR group if he could have "permission to talk to me". I was turned over to the head of the communications department who summarily dismissed me down the ranks once he found out I was "just a blogger". I ended up at the director level and over the course of MONTHS (yes, MONTHS) I was strung along, lied to and ultimately forgotten.

Techno//Marketer is a place for marketers to learn, not a place to browbeat companies into the ground (there are plenty of blogs that do that). That said, this is a great case study on what NOT to do when you're getting involved in new media. On the flip side, it can teach us how to empower our front line people to engage with the community and keep the conversation going.

How to empower your conversation agents:


  • Make conversation a priority (this seems obvious, but if it's not a priority you're going to fall short)
  • Set up a clear process for monitoring/tracking what is happening and who is talking about you
  • Set an expectation on initial response time and follow up (48 hours or less ideally)
  • With the conversation as a priority, put your trust in the people you hired
  • Empower those people to make real, human connections with real people and follow up
  • If you have multiple people following up, make sure there is a way to hand off smoothly so nobody slips between the cracks
  • Look for opportunities to add to the conversation by providing resources or information to make the overall content
  • Constantly look for ways to use your resources to enhance the value to the members of the community


The worst thing a company can do (beyond not listening in the first place) is casually following up and then fading away. You know those people at conferences that are constantly looking at who else is around when they're talking to you. Don't be that guy in social media.

Do you have other tips that you would add to this list to empower the front line agents? Have you had any good or bad experiences? Please share them in the comments.



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Book review: Now Is Gone

nowisgone.jpgCo-authors Geoff Livingston and Brian Solis solidly deliver on the book's promise and tag line "a primer on new media for executives and entrepreneurs". Now is Gone, however, provides solid knowledge to bolster even the most veteran maven's arsenal. It's a fairly quick read, but the documentation and references help continue the conversations online.

I always take notes when I read books so I can easily reference them later. In my 13 pages of notes on Now is Gone, here are some of the most beneficial points that I took away:

  • Brian Solis' opening sets a nice tone and pushes marketers to involve more sociology in marketing and PR planning
  • The audience is dead, you have to reach people and add value to their lives
  • Research your community to find where they are spending time and get involved
  • Dedicate resources, set schedules and responsibilities for content creation
  • 100% transparency is paramount
  • Look beyond demographics to wants and desires, create content to allow people to add more value to their lives
  • Be part of the community, listen and add value where you can
  • There are dangers too. Don't astroturf, flog or overtly promote the company
  • Find your company voice and stick to it and post on a set schedule

The key themes in the book can be summarized in Livingston's seven social media principles:


  1. Give up control of the message
  2. Honesty, ethics and transparency are musts
  3. Participation IS marketing
  4. Communicating to audiences is dead
  5. Build value for the community
  6. Inspire the community with real, exciting content
  7. Manage the media to build stronger, more loyal community members

If you're new to the space, this is a great overview to get you up to speed quickly. If this is old hat for you, you'll still pick up enough value to make this book worth your while. And in full transparency, I purchased this book myself. You can buy your copy here.

I'll be featuring more book reviews this year, so let me know if there is a book you suggest or have an interest in. I'm reading the book MicroTrends next.



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Five ways to stop doing stupid things in digital marketing

clown_small.jpgIn this fast-paced, wild west world of Web2.0 and social networking, too many marketers are making dumb moves online. These decisions are being rushed into the community without thinking about what the social ramifications are. You know who they are so I won't call them out again. It does make you wonder though, who is the voice of reason/community in these companies? I think it's vital to have a community advocate(s) inside the agencies and company marketing group to ask some pretty simple, but very crucial questions.

Here are five ways companies and agencies can stop doing stupid things in digital marketing. Some of these may seem very obvious, but ask yourself if you're actually doing them all.

  1. Engage internal, non-marketing folks in the process. This is a good idea and pretty cost-effective as well. Invite Jim from accounting or Julie from operations and see what they think of new initiatives. Address concerns directly and get their two cents on what you're trying to accomplish. Their personal interactions online will give you a window into how your customers may engage and react.
  2. Get young professionals involved in all aspects of your marketing planning. This is huge. Undoubtedly, you have young people working in your company. Get these people involved in all stages of your planning. Not only will this give them great experience, but they're much more intimately connected to the pulse of social networks. They can tell you if your thinking is lame and will create backlash or if it has a chance to be embraced. Check out the posts on Valeria's blog by young bloggers for some great insights.
  3. Remember, "your brand is not my friend". This is Tangerine Toad's battle cry and it is something every marketer needs to keep in mind. Despite how much we think people love us, friendships are person-to-person. Toad's anthem will will keep you at the right distance and in the right mindset.
  4. Ask your customers. This one seems obvious, but even the most pro-community sites are skipping this one and creating a lot of trouble for themselves. Had Facebook asked a user panel what they thought about Beacon or social ads, they may have been able to avoid some pretty major PR trouble. CK and Doug have already cancelled their accounts on Facebook and I'm sure others have as well. With the switching cost so low, nobody can afford to take advantage of or take for granted the community of current users.
  5. Learn from the past. You'd think more and more companies would at least look at the mistakes that have taken place. From flogs to Wikipedia editing, companies have pushed the envelope and experienced the backlash. Sadly, other companies either don't look or don't care and line up to do the same things. In this digital age, it's nearly impossible to get away with something like this. The trail is there and there are people who love for nothing more than to expose companies trying to pull a fast one on their customers.

This is a start, but there are definitely other ways to avoid looking like a bozo and run successful marketing programs. What do you do when planning your ideas? What would you add to this list?


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Blogging from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007 - Day 1

Picture 12.pngI am in Chicago today attending, shooting video and blogging live from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007. My flight was a bit late getting in so I missed the morning session, but I will be blogging from the keynote from Chip Heath (co-author of Made to Stick) and from the afternoon sessions.

Other bloggers who are in attendance (whom I am aware of) include Todd Andrlik, David Armano, Josh Hallet, Douglas Karr and Ann Handley (who I just met and is nice as can be).

I will update this post as the day unfolds. Stay tuned.

-------------------------------------------------------

Chip Heath on stageChip Heath gave a great keynote speech over lunch. He kept it light, followed the book's formula, but he added a touch of humor and extra insights that made this really valuable. If you have not read the book, check out the PDF outline that Cam Beck created for the Marketing Profs Book Club.




Branding panelThe branding panel presented by the folks from Babcock Jenkins was well received and full of visual examples to step people through their thinking. Key messaging for me included these points on message creation:

  1. Find one true sentence
  2. Take baby steps
  3. Use sales and customer interviews
  4. Would you buy it?

These points are some of the basics around message creation for any campaign.



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What NOT to do in a user generated ad contest

iStock_000001465250XSmall.jpgAllowing users to generate advertising for you is a risky game. On one hand you can empower your most passionate advocates to shower you with love. Contrarily, your opponents can use it as a platform to bash you.

Either way, companies take a risk when going down this path. I saw an this article today on NYTimes.com about a contest presented by Malibu Rum which is stirring up a bit of controversy. All of the positive press they've received is now being tempered with this news. (Note that this is a controversy being created by the users and not by the media.)

In short here is an overview of the situation:


  1. Malibu created a contest on YouTube and their website
  2. They posted rules
  3. They contradicted part of those rules in copy
  4. They let people submit video ads around the "Day-O" song
  5. People could vote for their favorite video
  6. Those votes didn't really count as Malibu picked the winner behind the curtain
  7. The main winner was announced, but not the other finalists
  8. Other contestants cried foul
  9. Contestant creates conspiracy video to retaliate

Here is the winning video

[Feed readers can click through to the post for the video]

Here is the conspiracy video claim

[Feed readers can click through to the post for the video]

So what are the takeaways for marketers looking to run a program? There is plenty to learn lest you wind up in the New York Times. Here are a few major points.

  • If you want total control over your advertising, hire an agency and RUN away from this space. (You, however, will still not escape social media.)
  • Transparency is paramount. Lay it all out there.
  • Set very clear rules and regulations and do not deviate from them.
  • If you are asking people to spend lots of time creating videos and asking people to vote, listen to the voters!
  • If you are going to decide on a winner yourself don't ask for a vote (why waste my time if you're not going to listen?)
  • If you do pick a winner in private, why not video tape the discussion and post it? Are you hiding something? People will think you are.
  • Create a timeline, stick to it and announce everything at once not in pieces.
  • Be honset and keep the mood positive. Any deviation from these items can cause a backlash and turn a fan into a frenemy.

These are vital points to consider when creating a user generated ad program (applies to other content as well). There is very high risk/reward here. Executed perfectly, you still may not get the result you are looking for. Executed wrong, you may not be able to recover your reputation and trust. Trust is crucial in social media.

What other tips do you have for executing a contest like this?


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